Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fun Exercise Swaps

Exercise for some people has always been viewed as taxing, boring and un-enjoyable.  What if I told you that it CAN be fun?

There is a lot of emerging research to show low intensity physical activity is actually better for your health, in terms of longevity, than trying to perform long duration high intensity exercise. Low intensity exercise such as nomadic walking or easy cycling can increase your life span. Where as high intensity long duration exercise like running may put to much pressure on the heart and wear out you out sooner.

For the sports enthusiasts like myself this news comes as a rude surprise as endurance high intensity activity is exactly what I am currently into. Putting that aside, this is not a post for the sports enthusiasts, this is to entice the average punter to get out and move! Maybe even burn off some Easter eggs from the weekend?

For the average Joe or Jane, this is actually good news, particularly if you don’t like exercising. Instead of trying to run marathons or take up gruelling cross fit sessions you can do something lighter, easier and some what enjoyable.

So here it goes, a list of my favourite low intensity sporting ideas, and why you should try them.  Trust me on this one, I never recommend anything I haven’t done myself, these exercise ideas are a lot of fun.

-Numero uno-

Have you ever tried indoor rock climbing? It’s a great all round work out.  I always thought indoor rock climbing is just one of those activities you do once in a while on the weekend or at a children’s party. Little did I know that there are climbing groups and competitions you can join when you advance your climbing skills.

As a beginner you will find, that it strengthens and tones upper body muscles, including shoulders, back and arms. Once you build up into more advanced skills of rock climbing, you will learn to use your legs to propel yourself up the wall using footholds. This will help to strengthen and tone the legs. It’s defiantly more fun than doing squats at the gym!

If you can maintain a good solid rock climb session for 30-45min total time being on the wall, it could replace your cardio and strength routine. So many muscles are activated once you start climbing it acts as a strength circuit, which provides both aerobic and strength fitness.

As a beginner you may have to supplement some cardio into climbing regime to start with 30min cross trainer or stepper to get the calorie burn. Only till you get better at climbing, can ditch the gym machines all together.

Next Up Trampolining

Trampoling is actually a spin off sport from gymnastics. It is a cardio based sport, with not much resistance training. The moves are aerial based which means the sport is more about technique and body proprioception in space. As a beginner, you will need to continue doing your regular gym routine, both strength and cardio, because you won’t get enough time on the tramp. Typically a beginner, may try a few jumps of different moves with a coach, hop off and wait for your turn in line again. In a 1 hr session you may get 15-20min alone on the tramp in intervals due to other team members waiting for their turn.

However when you become advanced and get one on one coaching, where you can perform an entire aerial routine. You can replace your cardio workout with trampolining. The routines provide a great distraction to the difficulty of the exercise, so you don’t even realise your working out.

Unfortunately as there is limited strength involvement in the sport, and the requirements to have a strong core to produce good routines on the tramp. It is still recommended you do a full body strength training routine at least 2-3x week. A program that includes a body weighted routine such as squats, chin ups, push ups, tricep dips, plank work and sit ups is all you need to supplement with, which you can do at home. 

Samba Brazilian Dance

This is a very sexy dance, which is very good for women to build confidence about their body. The dance moves can be very cardio taxing and complex. It would be similar to doing a moderate to low impact cardio workout. Classes usually have you moving for a good 60min if not longer, so it’s great to replace your gym cardio workout. You will even get a toned tummy and legs, a lot of the advanced moves involve abdomen isolation and controlled contractions to create body rolls and pop squats to the floor in high heels. Your thighs, butt and calves will shape up quickly!

Fit Pole Dance

This form of dance is awesome for everyone, beginners and advanced. Classes are designed to keep you moving, most of the time you have your own pole.  Dance moves typically in corporate the full body in both a cardio and strength manner.  The pole climbs / grabbing the pole and swinging all use phenomenal amounts of upper body strength using muscles such as bicep, tricep, shoulders, chest, back and core abdominals.

Leg exercises are taken care of too, via the groundwork with the dance element of pole dancing eg squatting next to the pole, body rolling on to the ground and using the legs to climb the pole. Pole dancing can replace both your strength and cardio workout from the onset. It builds confidence and is a place where you can make a lot of really close friends in a small intimate environment.

There are loads of other exercise or sports you can try; ballroom dance, drama classes, hoop work shops, tai chi, nude yoga and canyoning, can you think of any more?

Remember exercise is easy to stick to if you enjoy what your doing, then its not exercise any more, it’s just fun!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Has the Easter Bunny Been Extra Nice To You?

Ahhh it’s chocolate time… ahem, I mean Easter Another worldwide celebration, that equates to food. For dieters across the globe it’s pesky Easter and Christmas that throws that spanner in the works, derailing their best intentions.

Mr Easter bunny this year has come 2 months early in fact! I personally have witnessed Mr Bunny leaving his Easter eggs and hot cross buns in the super market in February - better get in early than late I guess?

Mean while, you have had to deal with that sweet stench of buttery goodness each time you walk past the bakery store, oh Easter come sooner!

I sound like I hate Easter, but I really don’t. I’m just teasing, I know a lot of my clients struggle with celebratory times and have real addictions to hot cross buns and chocolate eggs. You know what? It happens to the best of us, Easter egg addiction is a serious issue.

As always though, I’m hear to help you figure it out- Too eat chocolate eggs or not eat eggs? Now that it the ultimate question!

Let’s set something straight first. Eating Easter eggs at Easter time is no problem at all if you moderate what you’re eating. However eating hot cross buns and chocolate eggs for weeks leading up to Easter is probably not a good idea.  

Let's put a numerical value to it.

1 bakers delight medium hot cross bun = 230kcal, 4g fat, 43g carbs
50g milk chocolate egg                         = 255kcal, 13g fat, 31g carbs           

As you can see the numbers are quite high. Now thinking about the way we typically eat these food items: in between meals, on the fly, as snacks, with lunch etc They can quickly add to a growing waist line.           

Top tips to avoid the bunny belly:

1. Share your chocolate! Sharing the love means you get less yummy goodness, but you will be sharing calories too.

2.  Save your eggs for Easter Sunday when they’re supposed to be eaten. Hiding excess chocolate in the freezer or covered in a container in the cupboard assists with keeping them “out of sight, out of mind”.     
3.  Re-gift and recycle. This is my favorite; give them to some one who is good at controlling their food, or to people at work. That way you save money buying Easter gifts and you don’t have to eat them. 

4.  Plan to throw a chocolate fondue party or high tea for some ones birthday in the near future. Save the chocolate so you can melt it down for future use. That way you can share the chocolate love in a delayed fashion and everyone in your friendship circle doesn’t end up with chocolate over load over Easter.

5. Get active! Now that you have a few days off over the Easter break get out doors and do something fun; bike ride, bush walk, get down to the beach or pool. All the extra activity will help burn off the extra calories from eating all the eggs.

 Happy Easter egg hunting!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FILEX 2014

This weekend, I flew into Melbourne for my 5th year in a row attending the FILEX fitness expo. I was honoured to have my application to speak at the conference accepted. Speaking at FILEX has been a life long goal since I became a fitness instructor and trainer 10 years ago. To download my presentation notes click here

To give you a brief update, for those who don’t know FILEX is the fitness industries biggest event of the year, it not only includes the trade show where you can pick up all sorts of pills, powders and gym equipment but personal trainers and group fitness instructors, who attend lectures to accumulate continuing education points.

Most of the presenters work in the area of academia or clinical practice in allied health working in niche areas of rehab, nutrition or sports. It’s a great opportunity to network, learn new things and practice what you learn.

One of my favourite speakers is Paul Taylor, who now resides in the area of academia and public speaking. His presentation and ideas about nutrition where intriguing.  Paul’s current studies reside in the area of neuroscience, an area I am quite interested in and read a lot about. If you’re looking for a good book to start with, read “TheBrain That Changes Itself”.

As Paul discussed up and coming research about stress, gut bacteria and obesity, he mentioned a little neat fact about the concept of will power. He went on to say will power is developed through the right frontal lobe part of the brain. This area is also the part that’s involved when we exercise. Performing exercise on a regular basis trains the part of the brain that we will use for will power. It’s quite a novel concept, but the application of this is huge.

Think about it, if you’re having trouble with your nutrition and choosing the right foods because your will power is low, the best thing to do would be to exercise. Not only for the calorie burn and discipline developed from exercise, but it will also assist to build will power. Later, this can be used to say “no” to the extra slice of cake.    

He also followed my sentiments with detox diets - they are essentially a load of rubbish.  However, if you’re looking at a way to cleanse the body, eat broccoli, garlic and ginger, then start exercising till you sweat. 

The veggies mentioned above contain naturally occurring poisons in which the body has to clear. This process makes your immune system work better, not to mention all the anti-oxidants and nutrients they contain.

Exercising till you sweat is also a natural way to excrete toxins from the body. The skin, as an organ, excretes all sorts of waste products in our sweat. Sounds gross, but how good do you feel after you had a good sweaty gym session?

I know for me, on occasions where I have been stubborn, I have continued to train with a virus. Five times out of ten, exercising actually got rid of it. Don’t know if there’s any science in that - but it works for me!

I later attended a presentation by Donna McCook, who did a nice summary on how the current way we train for core stability may be too advanced for most people. She even goes so far to say that not only trainers have it wrong, but so do physio's and exercise physiologists.  She specialises in back pain and runs a specialised clinic in Brisbane, which she started after a 7 year stint teaching at the University of Queensland. She is both a physio and exercise physiologist herself.

Like anything, there is not one cause of back pain, however, she highlights that issues either develop from excessive moment (instability) or too much stiffness.  How do you tell which way you swing?

Well, a good indication is if people generally crack their back repetitively, it means there’s excessive movement in the spin. The joints in the thoracic area have too much movement. The cracking sound you hear are ligaments being stretched to full length and potentially slipping across bone, creating the noise. Too much movement means that other areas need to tighten up to keep the vertebrae in place.

The idea with this type of back condition, you would strengthen first, then lengthen. If you create extra flexibility without strengthening, you will be putting the spine into a vulnerable state with no stability whatsoever and cause more pain than when you first started.

If the flip side is true, your back contains too much stiffness. It’s generally because your stabilising muscles aren’t switching on properly (multifidus) and global muscles (erector spinae) are switching on too much and taking over the job.

Again, she pushes the idea of doing proper stability work first. Strengthen the right muscle groups, then lengthen via stretching to improve flexibility and spinal fluidity.

Planking, unfortunately, is the craze in the fitness industry, but it is an advanced move. She made a point by pulling out very robust trainers from the audience and asked them to do a very easy “switching on” the right “core” muscles and keeping their hips still through very simple exercises… and well, they couldn’t do it.

I’ve thrown planking out of my training toolbox for a while, till I build up from the basics again. Back to the drawing board!

Another Favourite of mine is Dr Len Kravitz. He is an exercise physiology lecturer from the USA. I was happy to learn that body builders have it right when it comes to strength training. The whole training concept of a body builder is to overload the muscles to the extreme by lifting heavy weights to cause muscle adaptation. Typically, the exercises aren’t functional.

Functional training is also another buzzword that has been popular in the fitness industry. A lot of programs, like cross fit, have developed from this concept. Functional meaning exercises that use the largest amount of muscle mass that we may perform in every day life or are multi jointed. There are limitations to this type of training though if you’re looking for extreme gains in muscle.

My style of training has always followed a body building routine. My very first weights program was written by an Australian pro body builder and I have never looked back. Sure, I give the functional thing a try, now and again, but I don’t feel it maintains my strength or power as much as my traditional body-building program. I have never met another female who can lift as much as me. No joke… Last year I won the gym bench-pressing competition between a power lifter, body sculptor and me, remember?

I digress…

Dr Kravitz goes on to say myotrauma, caused by training over load, causes inflammatory metabolic stress. People always thought this was a bad thing. Well, it’s not. Metabolic stress is what pushes the body to adapt and change, get stronger, fitter faster etc.

He also mentioned that one of the limitations of strength training is early fatigue, which may be caused by muscle acidosis. To combat this and get better at buffering acidosis from workouts, do high intensity cardio 2-3x week for 5 minutes pre workout. After a month or two of doing this you should be able to do more reps and sets. Bonus!  

This next point is highly relevant to me now, considering I have switched to the endurance based sport triathlon. He says the best strength training routine would include doing as many reps as possible with a load of 50% your body weight. It all makes sense, something I will have to try.

On a more global scale, the strength training protocols that have shown the best outcomes are structured in a periodised fashion. Where reps and sets vary within week. Periodisation programs do take a lot of planning and work. The bottom line with strength training is to keep training fresh all the time. If you do the same routines, sets and reps you will get nowhere fast. So mix it up.

I decided to make it a bit easier for myself and periodise week to week. This week 4-6 reps x 4 sets on my 3 day split concentrating on negative reps (eccentric training). Next week I’ll ramp it up to 8-10 reps, then try the 50% body weight routine the week after.  See how I go, and if anything changes?

Walking into the trade exhibition was its usual buzzing self. Loud music and buff people everywhere along with supplements, pills and merchandise. Years in the past I would walk around taste testing, buying new equipment, and staring in awe at the body builders.

I think times are changing for me. My perspective on supplements and fandangled whiz bang fitness equipment is definitely different. I don’t see a need for it. I see the development of supplements a waste of money and a scam (on the most part of course there are exceptions).

What I really thought was a welcomed positive change, was at least at the Melbourne trade show distributors used normal looking trainers and aerobics instructors as their equipment models. This, in comparison to the Sydney expo, where young promo girls were used to push supplements and equipment on the average punter using the sex sells marketing approach. Which really aggravates me.  Women are into fitness too!

In addition, I honestly believe if you’re trying to sell fitness equipment and supplements to industry professionals, use workers who live and breathe fitness and also use the products themselves. That way, they can pass on the knowledge and benefits of these products.  Nothing worse than talking to a promo guy or girl at a store, who knows how to smile, but nothing about the products, it’s very frustrating to the person who wants to find out more.

All in all, the FILEX conference, as always, was loads of fun and did provide me with a bit more insight about my own training and what I can focus on with clients.

Next stop: Adelaide, for the ESSA conference to discuss all things exercise rehab, chronic disease management and elite sports.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Looking For The Silver Lining In The Clouds

They say happiness is habit. Today I asked myself, why do all my “happy habits” seem to create no more happiness than when I first started looking into happiness as a concept?

Giving gratitude, keeping a journal, exercising regularly and doing meditation, is something I preach and practice all the time. No doubt you have heard it all before too.  However I still found myself every Monday to Wednesday these past few weeks feel so slumped, shunted and disillusioned. 

Last Monday was the 3rd in a row where I Googled the meaning of happiness. On this occasion I found some very insightful things. I’d like you share them with you, if you feeling a little slumped yourself.

My results from my Google search this week where actually pretty good- surprise, surprise I discovered a few websites Happify and Tiny Buddha that where really cool. I realised there are a few anti- happiness behaviours I am doing on a regular basis that I don’t even know about.

Let me run through the concepts that really stick with me, maybe you can find some truth in it too?

My biggest problem is waking up in the morning. Initially when I wake up, the first thoughts that go through my head, is how much my body hurts from training. If not this, then how much sleep I didn’t have and how tired I am feeling. From the  moment I wake up my thoughts are negative. As you can imagine this isn’t very productive to have a happy morning. 

Tip number 1- No matter how shit you feel, think of something other than that, make your thoughts some what  pleasant.

Secondly another ‘fun kill’ is limiting self-beliefs. Have you ever imagined how wonderful experiencing or doing XYZ is,  then the negative voice inside your head pipes up to tell you how crappy you are and how you can't do it? It happens to the best of us.

Personally have a stigma about my worthy ness to be heard and to voice opinion in my professional field. This comes down to the fact I don’t have Dr in front of my name and I don’t have a Phd. This is the basis of my limiting self-belief. Twice this year alone I have almost enrolled in uni again, to work my way towards that Dr title. When I stop and think about it again, I don’t think studying is going to make me happier. I just think its an excuse to get busier and to numb myself, by overloading my already over committed work life.

Numbing is a very interesting concept. A lot of People numb emotions through alcohol and drugs. Over achievers numb themselves by being extremely busy and over loaded with work. Being distracted and working all the time, you don't have time to be present and experience the world. You don’t have time to do anything. Do you numb?

Tip number 2 You are worthy, you just have to believe in yourself and kill that negative voice with more positive affirmations

Next on the hit list is sticking to ideals. In all areas of life you create this perfect image of how something is supposed to be like. Hate to break it to you, but life is not like this. We can try to create a ‘perfect’ life, but its often superficial and dysfunctional at best.

One hurdle I deal with most days of the week, is having the correct image as a trainer or dietitian. If I am so into health, shouldn’t I look like I am stepping out on a body building or bikini model stage? Logically I know this is hog wash, but this ideal is pushed on to professionals in the fitness industry all the time.  There is this perception that if a trainer doesn’t compete in aesthetic competitions then they won’t get clients or be successful.

 I agree it’s a good idea to keep yourself healthy and fit if your working in the health industry. Let's face it, practice what your preach, but you don’t have to look like GI Jane. Knowledge base and client rapport is more important - but of course my own wise words don’t apply to me. AHEM-

Tip number 3 You can’t be perfect, and ideals are stereotypes created by peoples own insecurities. Great things happen when we are outside of the norm. Be yourself.

Next is this overwhelming feeling that, if I'm not running around like a crazy woman all day, I am being lazy. I get the feeling that I am wasting time, wasting the day and I should have had XYZ completed by now.

I hate to break it to myself, but being lazy is not constituted as taking time out for a few hours to watch TV or surf the internet after working a 60hr week and training for 8-10hrs in my “free time”. You get the picture? It’s all about perspective.

Tip number 4 You are not being lazy if you take time out, enjoy it, relax and unwind.

Lastly this concept of PLAY comes up all the time. The happiest people are those that play. My first thought was, what do you mean by play? I do stuff I find enjoyable, like exercise... but  as I continue to find out, that’s not counted as play.

P - Permission to not be serious
L - let go of judgment
A - Acknowledge tension and resistance
Y- Say yes! 

Play is un-structured free time to do or not do enjoy able things, it's time to let your mind be creative and wander. You can part take in silly children’s games if that makes you happy.

Tip number 5  Allow some time for play

There’s also a few more things that may bring you happiness too, that doesn’t particularly have relevance to me, but it may for you?

  •               Aim to be debt free- start to budget, pay off your crap and stop trying to keep up with the Jones’s

  •        It’s ok to quit, find something else to work on that’s suits you better

  •           Acknowledge when your catastrophizing events. On a scale of 1-10, if 10 is where some one is dead and 1 is breaking a nail. Where does your problem lye? More often than not, your modern day issues like being late for work, sit around a 2-3.

Search for the silver lining in the clouds, look for more positive things to focus on. Find a few moments of quite time to give your mind a break and keep things in perspective.

So keep on, keeping on and I will too. I'll get de-slumped soon when I start to work on my new perspective :)